Cricket: Leicestershire's morale bruised

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The Independent Online
Derbyshire 268 and 254-3 dec

Leicestershire 160 and 223

Derbyshire win by 139 runs

THE Championship party is almost over for Leicestershire, whose second successive defeat with 18 overs to spare cannot be regarded coldly as just lost points. Their morale took a fearful battering six days before the NatWest Trophy semi-final against Essex.

Challenged to make 363 off what could have been 98 overs, Leicestershire batted nearly as badly in the second innings as they had in the first. Justin Benson, who had driven an innocuous half volley to mid-off on Wednesday, was caught this time at mid-wicket, slogging a full toss to the only fielder in a vast acreage. He was far from alone in the misadventure stakes. James Whitaker pulled a catch to backward square leg and the life visibly drained out of the innings.

Ian Bishop bowled comprehensibly the best spell of the match to dismiss Peter Hepworth, Laurie Potter and Gordon Parsons as the script became all too familiar for Leicestershire, who were previously in second place. Nigel Briers, the captain, said: 'We missed our injured bowler, David Millns and Vince Wells psychologically, as well as for their ability, but we have no excuses.' Neither player is certain to be fit by next week.

The influence of Millns and Wells has been far-reaching. Bowling strength this season has been offset by the alarming statistic that Leicestershire have collected full batting points only once, the solitary time they have topped 300 in any innings of a three-day match.

To win the game, Derbyshire risked batting on for half an hour in the morning but appreciated the steady spin bowling of Richard Sladdin. At the end of the match, both teams received mementoes to mark the return of Championship cricket to the Rutland ground after a 12-year gap. For some Leicestershire batsmen, loaded revolvers would have been more appropriate.